Mateusz Bogusz family signing day 2023

part of an ongoing series that introduces LAFC players in their own words

I’m from a small town in Poland called Ruda Śląska. It’s a humble mining town, a world away from Los Angeles, but football is very popular there. Just like L.A. is in California, my hometown is in a state called Silesia. There are football clubs everywhere in Silesia and its capitol city, Katowice, including five or six teams that play at the highest level in Poland. Where I’m from, everyone loves football – going to local games, constantly talking about football – the game is everywhere.

My grandmother and my mother played handball professionally. My father played and coached football. When I am asked how I became an athlete, my response is: I didn’t have much choice!

Bogusz mom grandma handball home photos collage

Since I was five or six years old, I played football with my father and grandfather on the local field. That’s how I came to love the game. Then I joined the small club in my town and played indoor football there for a couple of years. We played 5-v-5 with every player getting lots of touches and skill development. We played indoors because of the cold winters, but even when the weather is nice, youth teams play indoors in my country.

We won some tournaments, we were very good … and then it was time for the next step, so I joined a club called Ruch Chorzów. That’s where everything really began for me, because I started climbing up all the levels, until I joined the first team.

There wasn’t a single moment as a kid when I realized I might be a professional one day. I was just having fun playing football and trying to be the best. Whether I was five years old, or ten, I went to every tournament trying to win and trying to be the best, scoring goals and giving assists. Becoming a pro wasn’t part of my thinking. I just thought I was good at football and I wanted to prove it all the time, every game, even if I was just playing at the park with my friends.

My favorite player growing up was Cristiano Ronaldo – so my favorite club was Manchester United. I liked the club because of him, not realizing, of course, that I would soon sign with one of United’s biggest rivals.

My whole family played a big part in my football journey. My grandmothers would take me to trainings when my father was working. My grandfather played with me every day in the yard. My younger brother is 16 now and plays for my old club, Ruch Chorzów. I also have a younger sister. She is eight and plays handball. They both still live in my hometown.

My father was very controlling when I was young. I had a lot of trouble with him, and he had a lot of trouble with me. I was not an easy kid. I didn’t want to listen to him, but he’s one of the most important characters in my story. He was always keeping me calm, advising me on what I should and shouldn’t do. Of course I did not always agree with him, but later I would recognize: He was right, you know?

When I joined Ruch Chorzów at age 12 or 13, my father was my coach because he worked for the club as well. At that club, kids get a new coach every year as they move up in age, so I had five or six different coaches before I joined the first team. I was 15 when I joined the first team. I made my debut when I was 16. It was quick.

I played eight or nine months for the senior team at Ruch Chorzów and scored some goals, which brought attention from England.

I was very happy to receive interest from Leeds United. At the time I didn’t know Leeds was “a big club.” I just knew that my club in Poland was too small for me and that I needed a next step. I soon learned about all the history at Leeds, but I wasn’t scared of it. I was like, Let’s go.

I felt the consequences of signing with Leeds right after I signed. I couldn’t live on my own because I wasn’t 18 yet, so I lived with a host family in a small village where there was nothing else around. I didn’t speak English so I couldn’t talk to anyone. I spent every day by myself. Those first few months in England were very hard. I had always been one to do something with the guys after training. At Leeds our training ended at 1:00 p.m., and I was left without anything to do.

Luckily, Mateusz Klich was a prominent player for Leeds at the time. [Klich, 33, is a renowned Polish footballer who currently plays for D.C. United.] It was a big jump, moving from Ruch Chorzów to Leeds United, and Klich brought me into this new world. Things improved from there. I turned 18, started living on my own, picked up some English.

When I signed for Leeds, the plan was that I would join the U-23s but train with the first team. Marcelo Bielsa [the legendary Argentine coach] was the manager at Leeds at the time. He saw something in me, so he started bringing me to the bench for first-team matches. I didn’t play a lot, but I learned a lot. I was 17 years old.

I went with the first team on a preseason trip to Australia. I had some good games there, so I was thinking the upcoming season would be important for me. I felt ready … but the chance didn’t come. I stayed on the bench, played a match in the Carabao Cup, then made my regular-season debut at the end of the season, when Leeds was promoted to the Premier League.

I knew it was time to take the next step. I wanted to play, but I knew that Leeds’ move to the EPL might not result in a lot of first-team minutes for a young player like me. Bielsa was not happy about me looking for a loan opportunity because he wanted me to stay with Leeds, but I felt I had played enough for the U-23 side and I wanted to play for the first team, so we looked for a loan.

First I went to Logroñés [in Spain’s second division]. I was there 8 months. It wasn’t great, the club was struggling. I played some games, it was an OK season, nothing special, and then I went to Ibiza, where I started playing good football.

The level is very good in the second division in Spain. I played well during my seven months in Ibiza. They had a very nice coach, he gave me a chance and gave me a new position. I had been playing winger and he moved me to an attacking midfield role.

Unfortunately, I had an ACL injury. The timing was bad because Leeds wanted me to come back, a lot of teams were interested in me, including Poland’s national team, but I had the injury and needed to recover eight or nine months. After that I went back to Ibiza. Returning from injury was not easy. Missing eight months and then coming back to playing – I needed time. After a few weeks I was finally getting minutes, coming in for 20 to 30 minutes, and then I started playing more. In January and February 2023, right before my transfer to LAFC, I was feeling 100 percent.

I had heard of LAFC previously. I knew that Giorgio [Chiellini] played here, and Carlos [Vela]. I knew about the derby versus the Galaxy. Even in Poland they know about that game.

I didn’t know what football would be like here, though. I didn’t have any expectations about the stadium or the fans. Looking back now, I can say that our fans, our stadium – we have the best atmosphere in MLS. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowds in other stadiums, too. I believe that football will continue to grow in the USA.

This season I have been playing a lot. Of course I am very happy about that, but that is why I came here. I didn’t come here to be a sub or a bench player. I came here to help the team, to score goals, make assists.

I have been playing at number nine [center forward], but my natural position is attacking midfielder. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m just happy to be playing the game that I fell in love with as a boy in Ruda Śląska. I am happy that I am helping the team be one of the best in our league, and that I get to create memories with our fans in my new home.

Mateusz Bogusz signature
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